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Poetics, Social Science

Ivan Brady

Subject Sociology

Key-Topics qualitative methods

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405124331.2007.x


Poetics in an Aristotelian sense is a system of normative rules for composition. A more practical and theoretically useful definition is to see poetics as a collection of choices concerning style, composition, and thematics made at different levels by an author or a group ( Hallyn 1990 : 14). These choices help to determine (and are determined by) aesthetic and related representational interests in speech or writing, or both, that is, by poesis – the cognitive process of “being” and “doing” in variable contexts, a dynamic and reflexive process of construction, selection, and representation. The composite is an action plan for constructing the work. Putting it into place in the social sciences begs several problems simultaneously, including the place of aesthetic interests in the subject matter traditionally corralled by social scientists, the points of entry into research, and the visibility of the authors in representations. A careful study of both conventional scientific inquiry (with its distancing methods) and the more immersive and subjective techniques of artisan frameworks, including poetics, shows that nothing we say can be nested in the entirely new; that the field of experience and representation is by definition both culturally cluttered and incomplete for all of us at some level. Scientific inquiry can help us sort this clutter more or less dispassionately, giving ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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